A blood clot (medically known as a thrombosis) is a clump of blood that forms when blood changes from liquid to a gel like / semi – solid state.
Blood clots usually appear to stop bleeding after a cut or an injury – which is a great thing, otherwise we would all bleed to death after that shaving nick. The problem arises when the blood clots partly or completely block the flow of blood in a blood vessel and this could lead to damage of body organs or even death.
How common is blood clot in pregnant women?
1 out of 1,000 women will be affected with blood clots during their pregnancy. This is five times more than non-pregnant women. So to put this in context, in Singapore, between 35-40 mums-to-be will be affected by this condition yearly.
Why do pregnant women experience more blood clots?
A pregnant women’s blood clots more easily to help her body get ready to lessen blood loss during labour and birth. Also, blood flow in your legs gets slower late in pregnancy. This is because the blood vessels around your pelvis and other places are more narrow and your growing womb puts pressure on your pelvis.
Should I be worried about pregnancy blood clots?
Most pregnant women with blood clotting conditions still have healthy pregnancies. But these conditions may cause problems for some pregnant women and their babies. But testing and treatment can help save both you and your baby.
Here are some complications that may arise due to blood clots:
- Blood clots in the placenta. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. A blood clot in the placenta can stop blood flow to your baby.
- Heart attack. This usually happens when a blood clot blocks blood and oxygen flow to the heart. Without blood and oxygen, the heart can’t pump blood well, and the affected heart muscle can die.
- Intauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Babies are diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) if they appear to be smaller than expected — specifically, if an ultrasound indicates that their weight is below the 10th percentile for their gestational age.
- Miscarriage. A miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Blood clots are a common cause of miscarriage in the second trimester.
- Placental insufficiency. This is when the placenta doesn’t work as well as it should so your baby gets less food and oxygen.
- Preeclampsia. It’s when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. It affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide.
- Premature birth. This is when your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- Pulmonary embolism (PE). An embolism is a blood clot that moves from where it formed to another place in the body. When the clot moves to a lung, it’s a PE. PE can cause low oxygen levels in your blood and damage your body organs.
- Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb before birth but after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Stroke. This happens when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel that brings blood to the brain, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts open. Pregnancy and childbirth cause strokes in about 8 in 100,000 women. Stroke can cause lasting damage to the body.
- Thrombosis. This happens when a blood clot forms in a blood vessel and blocks blood flow. It most often happens in the deep veins of the legs but can be in other places of the body:
- Cerebral vein thrombosis (CVT). This happens when a blood clot forms in a vein in the brain. CVT can lead to stroke.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This happens when a blood clot forms in a vein deep in the body, usually in the lower leg or thigh. DVT can be diagnosed with an ultrasound.
- Venous thromboembolism (VTE). This happens when a blood clot breaks off and travels through blood to vital organs, like the brain, lungs or heart. This condition includes DVT and PE. VTEs that block blood vessels in the brain or heart can cause stroke or heart attack.
How do I know if I have a pregnancy blood clot?
In pregnant women, blood clots develop mostly in the pelvis or legs. You might experience tenderness, swelling and discolouration in the affected area. Symptoms also include:
- Difficulty with breathing
- Chest pains
- Intense coughing
- Loss of consciousness
What are the risk factors?
Your risk of developing blood clots in pregnancy increases if you have a family history, or if you developed a blood clot previously.
Other factors that increases the risk of blood clots in pregnancy.
- Repeated miscarriages, especially during the second trimester
- Severe or recurrent low birth weight (intrauterine growth restriction)
Treatment for pregnancy blood clots
Image source: iStock
Pregnant mothers with a history of blood clots should inform your doctor early and be tested for thromboembolism. Possible treatment options include:
- Prescribed anticoagulant medicine – a substance that thins the blood. This will not break down the clot, but it will prevent it from growing, giving your body the opportunity to break it down naturally. One such medicine is heparin
- Wearing compression stockings can help prevent blood clots from forming in pregnant women, by reducing swelling.
- Staying active as long as possible to maintain good blood circulation. If your lifestyle is sedentary, make sure that you drink plenty of water and perform basic leg stretches, such as flexing your ankles.
Your gynae may also refer you to a hematologist––a doctor who treats blood conditions.
We hope you found these information helpful, pregnant mums!
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